ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said during a recent conference call that he considers free agency “the most difficult thing I had to do as a general manager on virtually every front.”
The Titans and all 31 other NFL teams have been preparing for that part of the offseason that is quickly approaching. NFL clubs are allowed on March 8 to enter contract negotiations with agents of players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at 3 p.m. (CT) March 11, but not allowed to execute a contract until the 2013 deal has expired. Free agency Q & A.
One potential outcome of the negotiation window could be players’ agents gathering offers from other teams and relaying them back to their clients’ current clubs while time still remains to reach a new deal.
“I generally think the more knowledge you have in free agency, the better off you are, so if a (player’s agent) comes back and says, ‘I’ve got this. You’ve got to beat it,’ ” Polian said. “You can make the decision as to whether or not that offer is real or not real and go forward accordingly, but at least it’s a parameter. There’s no perfect world in free agency. From a club standpoint, it’s very difficult.”
Polian, named NFL Executive of the Year six times, said teams must consider how a player will fit in an offensive or defensive system, how fast the player can positively impact a team and the financials of the deal.
“When a player changes teams, systems and locales, he’s going to have an adjustment period. I think that is something that is missed by most analysts and fans,” Polian said. “Football is not a seamless transition. Basketball is, baseball is and hockey, to some degree, is. Football is not. Systems change. People have a difficult time adjusting to begin with and then if you have a system change or a technique change, it’s even worse, so you could typically find that a player doesn’t play to his maximum in his first year as a free agent. It may take him a year to get adjusted, and that’s a year that you’ve lost but you’ve paid pretty big money for.”
For those reasons, Polian said his preference, when possible, was to re-sign players that fit into his teams’ future plans and under the salary caps.
“Free agency, in and of itself, is an over-payment situation,” Polian said. “That’s why the (players’) union fought so hard to get it. That said, if your own players are quality players and you believe they can help you win, it’s better off to pay them, I’ve always believed because they’re probably as good or better as what you can find in-market, number one, and number two, you know them better than you know a player from another team, so you’re paying a premium, but you’re putting it to a person that you know, that you believe in and that has no adjustment coming into your system.”
Polian was asked specifically about the Houston Texans with regard to how teams that have new coaching staffs can benefit from free agency.
“It depends upon the system,” he said. “For example, if you were going to go to a power 3-4 and you don’t have a genuine nose tackle on the squad or a genuine right end or perhaps two inside linebackers that are big thumpers that can take people on, you’ve got to try and find them somewhere. If one is available in free agency that fits the scheme, it’s probably a wise move to go do it, presuming that the price is right. I keep coming back to longevity because lack of longevity or injury history leads to dead money. Those are the dilemmas a general manager faces, but if you’re making a sweeping change in scheme, free agency can help you at least start the process.”
Tags: nfl free agency, Tennessee Titans
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Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton said during Wednesday morning radio interview that he is pleased the Titans re-signed Bernard Pollard to a multi-year contract.
Horton was a guest on The Wake Up Zone on 104.5-FM and elaborated on the retaining of Pollard, a 2013 Titans captain who led the team with 142 tackles in his first season in Tennessee. Click here for audio of the interview.
Horton, who was hired this offseason, said Pollard will provide “continuity for one, and I think leadership for two, and hopefully the fans will see a different style where we blitz him more and give him more freedom to disrupt.”The coordinator who appeared in two Super Bowls as a player and has coached in three said Pollard’s previous experience of winning Super Bowl XLVII with Baltimore will be helpful as the new coaching staff sets the tone of Tennessee’s defense.
Horton also discussed his initial thoughts on Michael Griffin, who is likely to play closer to the line of scrimmage this season than a year ago when he often lined up about 20 yards off the ball and patrolled the field.
“Not only do I want him to play closer to the line of scrimmage. I want him to play further behind the line of scrimmage, meaning go get the quarterback,” Horton said. “I think when you have an athletic player that is smart, do more things for me. Don’t always be the deep safety. Be up at the line of scrimmage, ‘are you coming (on a blitz)? Are you not? Are you dropping? Is it camouflage?’
“It’s all those things where I don’t want the quarterback to go, ‘33 is always going to be here.’ I want confusion,” Horton continued. “I want second-guessing from the quarterback. He’ll figure it out quickly, but I want him to go through his progression. The longer it takes him to figure it out, the more time we have to get to him.”
The Titans are able to begin their offseason program on April 7, which will allow the new staff an opportunity to meet with players. Horton said he’s the effort he’s seen during film study.
“The first thing I was most impressed with was their effort because if you can channel that effort in the right direction at the right time, you’ve got pieces there, and they did that. I keep using the example of Jason McCourty, who is one of the smaller guys on the team, but how violent a player he is with hitting, tackling, aggressiveness, and when the little guys will do that, you should have a pretty good team,” Horton said. “On the other end of the spectrum, you have the big guys that run to the ball. From a coaching standpoint, that’s what you want. I keep using the coaching mantra of little guys that hit and big guys that run. That’s really all you want, and the rest is just, you call the game.”
Tags: Bernard Pollard, Jason McCourty, Michael Griffin, Ray Horton, Tennessee Titans
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Safety Bernard Pollard received a big welcome from Titans fans when he signed with the club a year ago. That didn’t change Monday night when he garnered an outpouring of positive feedback across social media channels upon word he had signed a multi-year contract to remain with the team.
“I’m so grateful for the response that I’ve received on Twitter and Facebook,” Pollard told TitansOnline.com. “It tells you that this city is ready for something big to happen. We’re getting paid to bring wins back to Nashville, and that’s going to ignite our fans and keep them excited. When we kick things off over the next month, we need to get ready for October, November and December right now. That’s the mindset of Coach Whisenhunt, Coach Horton, Ruston Webster and our owner, Mr. Smith…I’m very excited and ready to go!”
That’s music to the ears of Titans fans, who quickly embraced the hard-hitting safety and one of the team’s leaders, both on and off the field in 2013.
And the fact that he signed with a week to go until the start of free agency gives Titans management a chance to direct their focus on other needs.
Tags: Bernard Pollard
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Ryan Fitzpatrick joked last week that the on-field workouts at the NFL Combine are the “Underwear Olympics.”
The veteran Titans quarterback, however, plans to watch some of NFL Network’s coverage of the activities that more than 330 draft-eligible players take part in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Offensive linemen and tight ends began four straight days of timing and testing drills Saturday. Quarterbacks, receivers and running backs have the option of going Sunday, followed by defensive linemen and linebackers Monday and defensive backs Tuesday. Click here for NFL.com’s results tracker.
Team executives, coaches and scouts will take a more comprehensive look at the performances, but Titans general manager Ruston Webster said the timing and testing drills and workouts are just one part of the evaluation process. Webster was asked last week about their value.
“It’s helpful to those guys that work out well. I think you have to be careful not to put too much on the workout and make sure you go back and watch the film,” Webster said. “I think that happens every year. I think teams come in here and players work out really well. Everybody talks about them rising up the charts and then you go back and watch film and really in the end, that’s where people are going to draft off of.”
The Titans were able to schedule 15-minute interviews with 60 of the prospects, and scouts spent the fall evaluating players on film and learning more about them in a search “for the best football players we can find,” Webster said.
“The thing we need to make sure is they’re competitive, tough guys that are going to work and have the talent to play well in the league,” Webster said. “I think if we get enough of those guys, we’ll win.”
Tags: NFL Combine, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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What can be learned or accomplished in 15 minutes?
Titans general manager Ruston Webster, coach Ken Whisenhunt and coaches and scouts have 900 allotted minutes, broken into 60 sessions, to find out.
Tennessee was able to request 15-minute interviews per player with 60 of the more than 330 draft-eligible prospects who were invited to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the 2014 NFL Combine.
The limitations placed on the number of players establish a need for efficiency that is magnified during the sessions.
Earlier this week, Webster talked about what can be learned during the interviews.
“I think it is like anything else. If you come here and watch the guys that work out, there is a group that stands out, there’s a group that might struggle and there is a big group in the middle,” Webster said. “In those interviews we are looking for the guys that stand out or the guys that might struggle. It is helpful, but it is not the end-all, be-all, just like the workout is not the end-all, be-all.
“You do your research on players and try and do as much background as you can, and that has to weigh into it to,” Webster continued. “Somebody just may not be a good interview, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be a good player and it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right make-up that you want for your team.”
While players know more about what to expect during the interview process and have placed emphasis on practicing their responses, team executives do their homework during the season to find out background information. There can be metaphorical green, yellow or red lights that flash during or immediately after interviews.
“There are certain things that come up through the years that surprise you, and the guy leaves the room and you say, ‘Did he really say that?’ They’ve become a lot more rehearsed now,” Webster said. “They used to be a lot more interesting.
“I think the key to questions at the combine is already knowing something about the player. I think you already have some kind of background, that player’s background, or what he’s like, you can ask the right question and get the right response, so our scouts do a great job of researching these players before we ever get in there,” Webster said. “Some of them are really funny, and then there’s those guys that just blow you away with how impressive they are. Those guys usually end up being pretty solid football players too.”
Tags: NFL Scouting Combine, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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While assessing potential draft picks is on center stage this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, there’s also an opportunity for Titans general manager Ruston Webster to work on deals to extend players who are scheduled for free agency.
The GM, who is in his third year in the role, said it is important for the Titans to identify the strongest areas in the field of draft-eligible prospects, think about who may or may not be returning and keep in mind players from other teams who may become available through free agency next month.
He said the assessments that team personnel make this week will help guide the Titans through that process, and the results of free agency will likely influence decisions in May’s NFL Draft.
Last offseason the Titans added offensive weapons through free agency (TE Delanie Walker, RB Shonn Greene) and the draft (WR Justin Hunter).
Webster was asked Thursday during a media session about Walker and Hunter and how they will fit in new coach Ken Whisenhunt’s plans.
“I think Delanie (infographic) will be in a similar role this year, and he was really good for us on third down, he’s a good matchup in those situations. Delanie is a very competitive guy and he really stepped up for us,” Webster said. “I would say Justin (infographic), for somebody that came in, is an improving player. He flashed. He made some big plays, had some big games for us. And he’ll just continue to develop and get better. He has a boatload of talent.”
Tennessee has six draft picks (one in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) after trading its 2014 third-round spot and its 2013 second-round selection to San Francisco to move up from the 40th to the 34th overall spot to take Hunter. Webster was also asked if he wished the Titans still had a third-round pick this year.
“Well, I’ll always wish that, but it has nothing to do with Justin Hunter,” Webster said. “I think Justin really flashed and came on. What I was really impressed with Justin was he got a little banged up during the late part of the season and played through it. He blocked and did all those things that we kind of demanded of him, more than just being a big threat as a receiver, and then he stepped up and had some big games for us and helped us win a couple, so I think the future is bright for Justin.”
Tags: Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt repeatedly expressed his belief in the value of competition on Tuesday.
Whisenhunt spoke with “The Wake-Up Zone” on 104.5-FM in Nashville during an hour-long radio interview and then attended lunch and dinner events for about 5,000 Titans season ticket holders at Music City Center that featured question-and-answer sessions with “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith.
A 12th-round selection (313th overall) in the 1985 NFL Draft by Atlanta, Whisenhunt said he was given an equal opportunity to make the Falcons’ roster as players who were picked ahead of him or were due more money. After four seasons, he went to Washington, and some of his coaching philosophy is built on what he experienced as a player with the Redskins.
“The thing about Washington, they had had success before I got there,” Whisenhunt told the lunch crowd of about 1,700. “They had a system in place with how they operated and their players had bought in, ‘This is our culture,’ and that’s what we have to establish here: the culture of how you work in the weight room, how you handle yourselves in meetings and what you do on the football field, and a big piece of that, a big part in Washington was competition.
“We had guys competing for jobs, because to me, it’s about playing the best players,” Whisenhunt continued. “It’s not about who makes ‘x’ amount of dollars or who got drafted in the first round. Let’s play the guys that are going to win for us, no matter how they got to our team. When you do that, it installs a culture of, ‘This is how we’re going to work. This is what we’re going to do every day.’ If you don’t do that, you’re not going to be with us. Our goal should be to represent our fans and our city the right way and we’ll have success.”
Whisenhunt, Titans general manager Ruston Webster and members of Tennessee’s personnel department and coaching staff have convened in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, the annual assembling of all 32 NFL clubs and more than 330 top prospects.
In addition to gathering information on players’ physical attributes, their health and performances in drills, the Titans will try to discover the passion and competitive spirit in the 60 prospects that they’ve scheduled for interviews.
The draft, which is scheduled for May, has shrunk to seven rounds, with teams having the opportunity to sign undrafted, NFL-eligible players as free agents. Tennessee currently has six spots (first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) in this year’s draft, so the Titans want to be effective in the use of those choices, but Whisenhunt said every Titans player at training camp this summer will be extended the same opportunity he received.
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
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New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was able to share his background and philosophy with Titans fans during lunch and dinner events at a Season Ticket Member Bash on Tuesday.
Whisenhunt participated in question-and-answer sessions led by “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith, and amid sharing some of his on-field principles, the culture he wants to build for the team and city and the enjoyment he’s already experienced from returning to Nashville, where he got his first coaching job (1995-96 as an assistant at Vanderbilt).
The lunch crowd of about 1,700 people in the shimmering Music City Center’s Grand Ballroom gave Whisenhunt a standing ovation to welcome him and applauded heavily when Keith pointed out that Whisenhunt selected the Titans among the reported opportunities of other available head coaching jobs.
“I’m really excited to be here, and I think that speaks for itself,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s a great city, just look at where we are in this venue, what a fantastic venue, what a great city!”
More recent trips to Nashville have been as an assistant coach with Pittsburgh (2001-06), the head coach of Arizona (2007-12) and as San Diego’s offensive coordinator last season.
“I remember coming in here as an opponent and the fans and their support and how tough a place it was to play,” Whisenhunt said. “I’ve always been impressed by that, so one of the things that excites me is having that environment here, getting our fans behind us.”
About 3,500 Titans fans attended the dinner program, and Whisenhunt said during a media session said it was important to him to attend both events before heading to Indianapolis to be in place for the start of the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday.
Whisenhunt, a native of Augusta, Ga., said his past time in Nashville, combined with the immediate common ground he developed with Titans general manager Ruston Webster and the faith he has in the Titans’ ownership group were major selling points.
Titans President and CEO Tommy Smith and Co-Chairs Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Hunt traveled from Houston for the lunch session that was also attended by Webster, board member Kenneth Adams, IV and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean at the sparkling convention center that opened in May 2013.
“A lot of it starts with the (Adams family). I really believe the ownership is a big piece of it. I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with Tommy Smith and work with the ownership of this team,” Whisenhunt said. “The other piece that I think is important, obviously, is Ruston. I think the support we have with each other, the belief we have in the way we’re going to do things is a big piece of it, and wanting to win. Like I said, from Mr. Smith, I sense he wants to win and wants to build a team that’s a consistent winner. It’s my job to help that process, and I’m excited about having that opportunity.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
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One way or another, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. believes South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney will be in the AFC South next season.
Kiper, an NFL Draft expert, held a conference call Thursday in which he said he expects Houston to select Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick or Jacksonville to do so with the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft this May. Click here for the draft order for the first round.
“They’re both teams in the AFC South and both need to get heat on (Colts QB) Andrew Luck,” Kiper said. “He would have been the No. 1 pick obviously had he had the great year, which he did not have for a variety of reasons, which it would probably take us 20 minutes to get into that, but the fact that he was concerned about getting hurt, had that cheap shot against him in the North Carolina game, kind of all contributed to that, but he’s No. 1 on my big board, and a lot of pro teams still have him No. 1. I think he goes No. 1 to Houston or 3 to Jacksonville, or maybe if St. Louis wants to move out of 2, somebody may trade up to get him.”
St. Louis has the second pick via Washington from the previous trade that the Redskins made to pick Robert Griffin III in 2012.
The Scouting Combine will be later this month in Indianapolis, offering team executives, scouts and coaches an opportunity to interview and evaluate the invited participants and shape each team’s plans for the draft. Kiper said he expects the top offensive tackles to receive grades that could be higher than last year’s prospects, and he expects there to be a strong consensus on Clowney’s numbers, as well.
“Clowney is going to be a guy that everybody is going to have a high grade on, and in this league, you have to get after the quarterback and he can do it,” Kiper said.
As for potential pro quarterbacks he might be chasing, Kiper said it’s “too early to speculate on which quarterback is going to be the hot guy at quarterback because the combine and pro days are going to be critical to” (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater).
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Tennessee Titans
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This time around, he wants others to include a plan for safe travel in their preparations of watching Super Bowl XLVIII.
Not long after Walker and the 49ers finished just short of the Ravens in New Orleans, Walker was struck with a much tougher loss. His aunt and uncle, Alice and Bryan Young, were killed when their vehicle was struck by a drunk driver.
Walker has since dedicated his energy and spare time to preventing other tragedies by partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to lobby for legislative changes in Tennessee, raise money and awareness for the program and continuously stressing the importance of having a designated driver.
Walker worked his way around Radio Row at the Super Bowl XLVIII Media Center in New York on Wednesday in a shirt with the MADD logo on it. He had a full day that included multimedia interviews and a dinner with officials from MADD.
“I’m here because of MADD, which everyone knows my auntie and uncle were killed by a drunk driver last year after the Super Bowl,” Walker said. “We’re here to spread a message to have a plan before you go out. We just want everybody to be safe.”
That means planning ahead to prevent drunk driving on a day that so many gather to celebrate football with friends and family.
Walker said it was difficult to compare the experience of preparing to play in the game and participating in a media spree like Radio Row.
“Being in the Super Bowl is exciting, and I’m excited for these guys, the Seahawks and Denver. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget,” Walker said. “Being here though, is different. It’s exciting but different at the same time. You get to see the back end of it, instead of seeing the football, you get to see all the media, some of the Hall of Famers, some old, some new. It’s a good experience. You get to get your voice heard and spread a message.”
Tags: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
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